Chain maintenance – how much is enough?

Punctureking doesn’t have an awful lot of time to spend on maintaining bicycles. In fact, since returning from our dusty Karoo farm MTB holiday (here) my bike sits in our garage with a broken suspension lock out cable, and a drivetrain that is so dirty it doesn’t even shift properly. Here is the problem – how much time should one spend on maintaining the chains and cassettes? I used to be meticulous and after every single ride degrease the chain, cassette, front dérailleur, rear dérailleur, then lube and so on. With all thise brushes that come with cleaning sets, this took forever and rarely looked great. Yes, to this day a clean and polished bike excites me, but so does coming home, dump the bike in the garage and spend the rest of the day with my family after having hot chocolate with my son, who has just woken up. I believe he is more excited about that too rather than watching dad fiddle with greasy bike cleaning tools for the rest of the morning.

Give up on bike maintenance? No, not an option, unless you want to spend a small fortune on new chains, cassettes etc much more frequently than needed. I have instead tried those “chain cleaning machines” which you fill with degreaser of your choice, hold and spin the chain through it. They work, sort of, but are a messy affair: spillage, what to do with the left over liquid etc. That wasn’t ideal, especially considering that they don’t manage to clean the chain spotlessly.

I have since changed my system a little. Each chain has got a quick link. I remove the chain, and drop it into a paraffin bath in some old Tupperware. While it’s soaking in there, I spray paraffin or degreaser on the cassette and hose clean. Dry chain, reinstall. Run through an old cloth to get excess paraffin off, et voila. Put a lid on the paraffin bucket and keep for next time. Ready to lube. And you need lots of it, as apparently paraffin removes all lubricant that is in the chain’s rollers. I am not sure how true that is and how standard degreaser doesn’t. I have never had any shorter-lasting chains or break downs because of chain issues caused by paraffin. And yes, I hardly clean the rest of my bike, just wipe down with the same old paraffin cloth, a few drops of oil in the important places (shifters, cables, etc) and off I am to make that hot chocolate…